Hiromu Arakawa's name has become synonymous with quality. Her most popular work Fullmetal Alchemist, has gone on to achieve widespread critical acclaim and has become a benchmark in the industry by which all other recent series are judged by. Arakawa’s latest work isn’t necessarily one of her own creation, but rather an adaptation of a Chinese folk tale. While it does toy around with bold concepts mixed with the familiar hero’s journey, the series hasn’t quite reached the level of greatness Arakawa is capable of delivering.
Volume 4 opens with Taitou’s journey home only to find it leveled by Keirou’s forces as a means of sending a message to his destined rival. Among the casualties was Taitou’s father, sending the young man into shock and creating friction with his sister Laila who puts the blame on him. With the guilt welling up inside him, Taitou turns his desire to avenge his father into motivation to take down Keirou.
The second half of the volume amps up the intensity with Ryuukou forced into taking his father’s life to prove himself to Keirou. Meanwhile Shimei challenges Taitou and his group to a duel which erupts into a wild battle that see’s one of the main cast giving up their life to stop him.
Volume 4 was by and far the best entry in the series to date, advancing the plot forward considerably while delivering heartbreaking drama Arakawa is known for. Every volume has been a considerable improvement over the last as the author’s signature flare becomes more and more prevalent.
This was the penultimate volume before the finale and it does exactly what is required of it, building interest and setting the stage for the conclusion. It’s just a shame that the series is already coming to an end just as it was finding its groove. Here’s to hoping volume 5 sends it off with a bang.